A 23-year-old man “considered to be a significant threat to women” has had his sentence for the sexual exploitation of a 12-year-old over the internet, cut on appeal.
Adam Heneghan, with a last address at Upper Dromohane, Mallow, Co Cork, had pleaded guilty at Castlebar Circuit Criminal Court to five counts of exploitation of a child over a period of days in April 2012.
He was sentenced to seven years imprisonment with the final two suspended by Judge Rory McCabe on February 4, 2016.
Heneghan successfully appealed his sentence today and was accordingly resentenced to five-and-a-half years imprisonment with the final two suspended.
Giving judgment, Mr Justice Alan Mahon said Heneghan was nearly 19 at the time while the victim was 12.
On the night of April 23, the victim's father was awoken by the sound of his daughter having a conversation. He found her engaged in an online video conversation with Heneghan in an opened dressing-gown fully visible to him.
Heneghan said he originally believed the girl was 17 but accepted he continued to have contact with her when he discovered she was 12. He also accepted that he required her to remove clothing and engage in sexual acts.
He never phsycally met the victim and was co-operative with gardaí.
Heneghan had two relevant previous convictions arising from an incident which occurred in December 2011 – four moths before this offence - in Cork when he sexually assaulted an adult woman and assaulted another woman causing her harm.
His sentence for that offence, following an appeal in the Court of Appeal, was a net five-year jail term.
Mr Justice Mahon said the victim described feelings of anger, embarrassment and shame. She also expressed concern that Heneghan will try to contact her in the future because he knew where she lived and went to school.
Heneghan's barrister, Keith Branagan BL, submitted that the headline sentence of 10 years was excessive; That the sentencing judge failed to take proper account of the mitigating circumstances, of Heneghan's background, his own sexual exploitation and the steps he had taken towards rehabilitation while incarcerated.
Mr Branagan further submitted that the judge wrongly relied on the contents of a probation report by laying undue emphasis on the reference to Heneghan's plan to meet the victim when no such evidence was adduced.
That the offence lacked physical contact and that Heneghan's online profile clearly identified him and was not fake, was emphasised by Mr Branagan in his submissions.
Mr Justice Mahon said it was especially remarkable that Heneghan had a relatively recent previous conviction for sexual assault of an adult female. He was “at a young age considered to be a significant threat to women,” the judge said.
Mr Justice Mahon said the sentencing judge was reasonably criticised by Mr Branagan for referring to grooming in circumstances where grooming involved contact and was the subject of a separate offence.
He said the sentencing judge assessed the headline sentence of 10 years as being the mid-range of the scale for an offence which carried a maximum sentence of life imprisonemt. However, the mid-range generally required further and more detailed categorisation when the maximum was life, the judge said.
Mr Justice Mahon, who sat with Mr Justice George Birmingham and Mr Justice John Edwards, said the appropriate sentence in this case was five-and-a-half years.
It was clear that Heneghan had used his time in prison positively as evidenced by his achievements and impressive results in the Leaving Cert. Of most importance was his positive involvement in the Building Better Lives programme which suggested a real and substantive effort on his part to rehabilitate himself.
In those circumstances the court suspended the final two-years of the five-and-a-half year sentence.
Heneghan was required to enter into a good behaviour bond for the suspended period and he undertook to be so bound.